Sask. First Nations Do Well

Media Appearances, Aboriginal Futures, Frontier Centre

Results from a survey on aboriginal governance were released on Monday with some surprising results.

“First Nations, which do well in terms of transparency and administration, tend to do better at the economy and the overall governance score,” said David Seymour, policy analyst for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Saskatchewan First Nations dominated 11 of the top 12 spots on the 2007 aboriginal governance index compiled by the centre. The first index in 2006 included only Manitoba First Nations. This year 61 First Nations in Saskatchewan participated the index as well as 51 communities from Manitoba.

The Frontier Centre is an independent research organization based in Winnipeg with offices in Regina and Calgary. A total of 1,780 surveys — 789 in Manitoba and 991 in Saskatchewan — were used to help rate the First Nations.

Only five First Nations declined to participate in the index — Wood Mountain, Whitecap Dakota and Big River in Saskatchewan and Roseau River and St. Theresa’s Point in Manitoba.

Participants were asked a series of questions in the areas of elections, administration, human rights, transparency, services and the economy.

Don Sandberg, the centre’s aboriginal policy fellow, said conducting such a massive survey was challenging, but it was what he expected since the group conducted a similar poll in Manitoba last year.

“We polled band staff, hospital staff, school staff, and the people in general on the First Nations. We did not exclude anyone. We covered the whole reserve from one end to the other, talking to everyone,” said Sandberg.

He hopes the First Nations can use the index as a benchmark so they can see the areas that need improvement.

Ahtahkakoop First Nation, located about 150 kilometres north of Saskatoon, ranked No. 1 on this year’s index.

“We’ve tried to make everything as good as we can for the people and I’m really pleased to hear that we’re No. 1,” said band councillor Jason Masuskapoe.

He explained that being transparent was something the Chief and council has been working towards.

“We worked hard. We hired consultants to come in and help us to figure out where we could improve in areas,” said Masuskapoe.

He said the First Nation is working on its elections act to make necessary improvements. The reserve has also implemented a new financial management act and personnel management act to make sure they are in line with Canada Labour Standards.

Masuskapoe agreed with Sandberg that the more transparent the governing agency is, the better the reserve does economically. He said Ahtahkakoop has allowed the community to see how the reserve was doing financially which has created a more cohesive community. Being open has helped the reserve move forward, he explained. There’s currently a new store in the works and a new band hall being constructed.

“From the comments we’ve heard from the people on the reserve, because (the band office) is way more transparent and because they see the projects coming up, it’s overall more positive on the reserve,” said Masuskapoe. “Things are looking better every day, every month, and every year.”